A mildly enjoyable if open-ended romp.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

HUGE PAIN IN MY...

The author of Go the Fuck to Sleep (2011) joins Zweibel to craft a (somewhat) more conventional tale, featuring a seventh-grader who gets unexpected help navigating middle school rapids.

In a plotline wrought from standard-issue tropes, from stepdad issues and feeling left behind by peers to poop references and vomiting all over a crush, the authors do get in some memorable twists. Assigned to write a letter to a historical figure, Franklin “Ike” Saturday pens a whiny missive to his namesake that gets mailed—and, unexpectedly, elicits a response from the great man himself. Purportedly, anyway: “old” Franklin’s spiteful reference to Jefferson as “a slave owner with a multitude of unaccounted-for progeny” and later boast of “lamps that represent the cutting edge in whale oil–fueled technology” sound strangely modern. In any case, the two Franklins find common ground in a regular, if irregularly capitalized, correspondence (“I’m very Grateful, and anything I can do to help you Screw Over Jefferson and the rest of those clowns, just let me know”). Meanwhile, against all odds, Ike hits it off with dazzling classmate Claire Wanzandae, particularly after the vomiting incident (caused by a boneheaded effort to impress by chugging beer) triggers an exchange of heartfelt letters of apology. Sending old Franklin modern documents that threaten to derail the American Revolution will definitely be harder to fix…stay tuned. The episode’s coyly blacked-out title is no more than a marketing ploy, as the correspondence is generally an amicable one.

A mildly enjoyable if open-ended romp. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4847-1304-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic.

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL

From the School for Good and Evil series , Vol. 1

Chainani works an elaborate sea change akin to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked (1995), though he leaves the waters muddied.

Every four years, two children, one regarded as particularly nice and the other particularly nasty, are snatched from the village of Gavaldon by the shadowy School Master to attend the divided titular school. Those who survive to graduate become major or minor characters in fairy tales. When it happens to sweet, Disney princess–like Sophie and  her friend Agatha, plain of features, sour of disposition and low of self-esteem, they are both horrified to discover that they’ve been dropped not where they expect but at Evil and at Good respectively. Gradually—too gradually, as the author strings out hundreds of pages of Hogwarts-style pranks, classroom mishaps and competitions both academic and romantic—it becomes clear that the placement wasn’t a mistake at all. Growing into their true natures amid revelations and marked physical changes, the two spark escalating rivalry between the wings of the school. This leads up to a vicious climactic fight that sees Good and Evil repeatedly switching sides. At this point, readers are likely to feel suddenly left behind, as, thanks to summary deus ex machina resolutions, everything turns out swell(ish).

Rich and strange (and kitted out with an eye-catching cover), but stronger in the set pieces than the internal logic. (Fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210489-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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Lovers of bloody fantasy epics will be glad to have another.

FIREBORN

From the Fireborn series , Vol. 1

An unnamed warrior-child in training needs to defeat the inner demons that enrage her.

Twelve is an acolyte of the Hunters, a group of warriors who sever all prior ties, give up their names, and fight the darkness. Despite her prowess in battle, she’s friendless, prone to lashing out, and desperate to avoid thinking about her painful past. Her solitude ends when the Hunting Lodge is attacked by goblins—and worse. The only girl Twelve even remotely likes, the worst warrior of them all, is kidnapped, and Twelve hurls herself into the monstrous outer world to save her friend. But it seems she won’t be going alone. She’s joined by Dog, a massive stone beast, the irritable (and sometimes funny) fighter who guards the lodge. And soon they’re also joined by Five and Six, the two most hateful boys among the huntlings. At least Twelve can lean on her squirrel friend, Widge, a gift from kidnapped Seven. The northern wilds are a frozen wasteland filled with terrifying monsters, and if the young warriors are to survive they’ll have to learn to trust each other (and themselves). A few threads are left dangling for the next entry in the series. Late-discovered magic provides a deus ex machina in a quest that’s otherwise about inner knowledge and cooperation. All the human characters appear to be White.

Lovers of bloody fantasy epics will be glad to have another. (Fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299671-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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